Microsoft vs. Apple: the multi-touch war

Microsoft vs. Apple: the multi-touch war

Summary: Because the Evil Queen of Numbers has kept the Windows branch so quiet about Windows 7, we've been relying entirely on speculation, the blogosphere, leaks and occasionally "that dreaded New Yorker" as Sinofsky would probably say.Multi-touch is the latest craze it seems.

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Because the Evil Queen of Numbers has kept the Windows branch so quiet about Windows 7, we've been relying entirely on speculation, the blogosphere, leaks and occasionally "that dreaded New Yorker" as Sinofsky would probably say.

Multi-touch is the latest craze it seems. Once the technology was finally perfected, it went through a series of acquisitions which Apple took under its disproportionate wing; hence why we see multi-touch technology in the iPhone and iPod Touch devices. It's taken nearly three decades to see it reach our technology, but now it'll be what could well replace the standard keyboard and mouse. But are we ready for it?

touchscreen-small.pngWindows 7 may already be the first (desktop) operating system to support multi-touch technology, and from little we've seen, it seems to work well. Since Apple gained the technology, they've thrown it into the Macbook Air, but little seems to be known about it. The keyboard and mouse will still stick around for a good while; there's no doubt they'll go out of style, fashion or use for a good long while yet though.

Touch screens have been around for a long while, ranging from Tablet PC's, mobile devices (or "Palm Pilots" back in the day), to those beeping kiosks you have at railway stations to tell you which platform to jump from catch your train from. Having two-fingers being pressed against a screen would ordinarily confuse these simple minded devices, whereas a multi-touch device can translate a physical hardware input into a software based command - rotate, crop, move, select, expand, increase or decrease, and more...

paint-small.png...which nicely brings me onto my next point. Multi-touch isn't just a new extension from a touch-screen computer. Graphics could be made easier by more accurate gestures, and physical human interaction with the operating system certainly a breakthrough as opposed to just a mouse. Those with mental health impairments could learn and be creative using hands-on interaction, whilst those with physical disabilities may not be as an advantage, but opens up different doorways and pathways for them.

Whilst my sister disagrees with interactive whiteboards, and makes many a point about their lack of usability, multi-touch technology relies on integrated hardware. Windows 7 has already been seen to improve usability and enhance "quality of service", if you want to call using a computer that. But considering the "iGeneration", being those of my generation going forwards as the next wave of IT users, is advanced user interaction a wholly positive thing?

"Today almost all [PC] interaction is keyboard-mouse," Microsoft chairman Bill Gates says. "Over years to come, the role of speech, vision, ink--all of those--will be huge."

We've been brought up on Windows, and for some (rather few actually), Macs. Keyboards and mice have been the only available way of communicating what you want a computer to do, then touch-screens came about. Voice technology has been an interesting development but proved that it doesn't always work as you'd want it to. Multi-touch won't replace the keyboard and mouse completely, at least for Windows users for a while, but Apple are jumping at the chance to make a device and operating system to compete as much as possible.

I and many welcome competition between companies, businesses and corporations, as it gives us more choice over what we use. Apple have been rumoured to be creating their own next-generation device, the Macbook Touch. Whilst they are still rumours, in my eyes it's certainly not an impossibility; more likely it's an inevitability with Windows 7 just around the corner. One source from MacDailyNews told Gizmodo of their knowledge on this supposed Macbook Touch:

Think MacBook screen, possibly a bit smaller, in glass with iPhone-like, but fuller-featured multi-touch. Gesture library. Full Mac OS X. This is why they bought P.A. Semi. Possibly with Immersion's haptic tech. Slot-loading SuperDrive. Accelerometer. GPS. Pretty expensive to produce initially, but sold at "low" price that will reduce margins. Apple wants to move these babies. And move they will. This is some sick shit. App Store-compatible, able to run Mac apps, too. By October at the latest.

Whether the device itself is fact or fiction, they've made a trademark patent bid available from the US Patent and Trademark Office, which throws out some interesting suggestions. The device has been designed and modelled so many times, more often than Michael Jackson's nose, with some promising and exciting prototype designs. A possible look at the future of Apple's mobile and multi-touch computing future, I present to thee.

A concept design of what the Macbook Touch may look like.

A video created by an MBA student at Georgia State University (presumably the Georgia which hasn't been obliterated by Russia) shows the possibility of usability and function using concept designs, simulated and produced onto YouTube. Whilst again, it's clear to state this isn't what the rumoured device will do, it shows how multi-touch could be brought to Mac products.

There's a brilliant article on how the hardware technology works, and plenty of videos out there demonstrating hands-on what this fantastic technology can do. But what do you think?

[poll id=6]

Topics: Hardware, Apple, Microsoft

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79 comments
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  • Just doesn't seem natural

    The idea of using both hands and touching to tell the computer what to do, to me seem unnatural. I'd rather have a truly voice directed PC that would seem more natural and useful.
    jfp
    • RE: Just doesn't seem natural

      Who said you HAVE to use both hands, who says you can't combine voice and touch? Personally I see myself using touch when touch is more useful, and the mouse when it's most useful.
      B4light
    • I agree

      I despise touch screens that are operated with your hands. Those that work with a stylus aren't too bad. I like my Tablet PC, but mostly I like it because I can flip the screen and use it like a Tablet when I want to, or I can turn it back and use it like a standard laptop. As neat as the Tablet is, I use it in standard fashion far more often.

      I hate putting my hands all over the screen of anything. And I absolutely will never use any kind of touch keyboard. I hate them because they suck and I won't relearn how to type because something is "cool." Even if that means I have to stock up on keyboards now.
      laura.b
      • So you've never used a touch-screen ATM?

        [i]And I absolutely will never use any kind of touch keyboard.[/i]

        There are tons of ATM's all over the place that use touch-screen technology. And they use it very well.

        I am severly disapointed by the lack of exceitment in new technology here on a tech site. And what is the reason for the appathy? Lack of vision on how the new technology can be used...

        It actually makes sense when you realize that most of the people here are pro-Linux zealots. That is one thing I really have to give credit for to Mac zealots, they actually get excited about new technology.

        All of your geek cards should be revoked IMHO.
        mikefarinha
        • KEYBOARD

          Not keypad. Keyboard.

          And using an ATM for 30 seconds is not even close to the same thing as using my desktop computer for 8 hours. To even hint that that is so is laughable.
          laura.b
          • Keyboard/keypad?!?! what are you talking about?

            I never said that a multi-touch would be a device you spend 8 hours a day on, it could be but not for administration or development. At least in their current itterations.

            And using an ATM touch screen is a valid, simple, and smart use of touch screen.
            mikefarinha
          • Are you not following along?

            A keyboard is that big thing that sits in front of your computer with letters, numbers, and various command keys.

            A keypad is a series of buttons with numbers and a few character/command keys, like that found on the far right side of a standard keyboard, or on a cell phone. Sometimes referred to as a 10-key pad.

            I have yet to see the ATM that has a keyboard. I have seen plenty that have keypads.

            An ATM and a desktop computer are nowhere near the same thing. This article, and the responses so far have been about desktop computers. If you're on a different topic, you need to be a bit clearer about that.
            laura.b
          • Laura, the difference between dislike and indifference

            My point is that you come on here and tell people that it is a stupid technology because you don't see how it can help you.

            People that have no use for something don't go on and on about why it is a dumb idea... usually they just ignore it.

            You, on the other hand, have a passion against it or any use of it. And you use your passion to mock and belittle others ideas of how the technology could be used.
            mikefarinha
          • No, I didn't

            I agreed with the OP that disliked putting his hands on screens. There was nothing wrong with that, and I didn't criticize people who don't agree.

            It was you that replied that if I've used an ATM, then my opinion is invalid, and that I am close minded for disliking that input method.
            laura.b
          • Laura, I never said you were closed minded

            You were the one stating that I said you were closed minded. I said that many people here have a lack of vision and excitment for new technology... which is fine, but it doesn't make sense for people who are passionate about technology to so easily dismiss and diminish something new that they can't see themselves using.
            mikefarinha
          • Really?

            [i]I am severly disapointed by the lack of exceitment in new technology here on a tech site. And what is the reason for the appathy? Lack of vision on how the new technology can be used...

            It actually makes sense when you realize that most of the people here are pro-Linux zealots. That is one thing I really have to give credit for to Mac zealots, they actually get excited about new technology.

            All of your geek cards should be revoked IMHO.[/i]

            Oh, you're right. You said "lack of vision."

            A few comments down you said "lack of creativity."

            And apparently I'm not worthy of technology because I prefer another input method, and don't get excited about a new technology I'm not interested in.

            You're right. That's not the same thing at all. /sarcasm
            laura.b
          • What are YOU talking about?

            "And using an ATM touch screen is a valid, simple, and smart use of touch screen. "

            And is not a new technology.
            Touch screens have been around for years.
            I studied touch screens and voice input for the Air Force 25+ years ago. They were possible replacements for clunky light pen interfaces. Popularization of the mouse reduced enthusiasm for competing technologies.
            For years touch screens and voice input have been solutions looking for a problem. Progress has been slow.
            I don't see anything exciting here. But I'm an old fart. Maybe I don't get it.
            Badge3832
          • Tired arms

            Actually, what's supposed to be exciting is "multi-touch", where you use both hands to manipulate objects. Might be okay for a laptop, but not a desktop. I can't imagine holding my arms extended for long periods of time just to do what i can do now with arms rested on a desk. Also, I have yet to hear of anyone inventing a scratch-proof (not scratch resistent) screen. Just seems like another gimmick to force people to replace hardware on an increasingly shorter schedule.
            purevw@...
        • No I havent.

          I've never seen one.
          Species8472
        • Actually...

          I'm a Linux Zealot who thinks this looks like pretty exciting tech. And considering that Linux and other Unixes have been far enough ahead of either Windows or Mac for the last several years, it's refreshing to see something like this come out from the competition. I'm no big fan of either Mac or Windows, but do use Windows about as often as I use Linux. I've never used a Mac, as I have always felt that it has nothing to offer that is worth the extra cost to have a "status symbol." They might actually have dangled the right lure in front of me this time, however.

          So, to your comment about Linux zealots - you really shouldn't generalize like that. Linux has been at the forefront in desktop development for awhile, with all the 3D effects that Mac and Windows are now copying, so advancements ARE exciting for Linux users. But, if the way someone works, causes them to think that they may not embrace this newer technology, it doesn't mean there is something wrong with them. After all, there are still people who like to ride horses once in awhile, and there are still some who NEVER learn to drive a car and yet they get along just fine in our high-speed world.

          Recovering Windows addict.
          cheesyone
      • Men seem to prefer touch screens to women

        I have not done a scientific survey, but in my observation, women do not seem to like touch screens as much as men. I theorized that it might be due to longer finger nails, but have no proof. In any case, before the market gets flooded with them, it would be good to have a proper study.

        On a parallel note, the idea of a touch screen on a large computer seems ridiculous. A keyboard and mouse-like device is much more practical until voice activation becomes much more effective. Who wants their big screen covered with grease and smudges?
        jorjitop
        • Parallel Notes...

          [b]On a parallel note, the idea of a touch screen on a large computer seems ridiculous. A keyboard and mouse-like device is much more practical until voice activation becomes much more effective. Who wants their big screen covered with grease and smudges? [/b]

          There are serious problems in modern offices with voice controls... Several years ago, my boss handed me a copy of Dragon Naturally Speaking and told me to see what I could do to get it up and running.

          I found it an impossible task. The cube farm I was working in had poor acoustic dampening. The program was getting confused by the ambient noises of my colleagues who were in nearby cubes, talking on the phone, the odd passer-by chatting with someone else, the receptionist on the other side of the room, etc...

          If everyone had their own personal office, I can see this having more than a snowball's chance in Hades. Given office trends are moving in the [i]opposite[/i] direction - open offices without the cube farms I can see everyone going utterly NUTS trying to get their computers to get anything done with voice. I can just see it now... I'm working on something and someone halfway across the room starts yelling at their computer because it's got some problem or other and my computer starts executing their commands. Whee...! Fun!

          NOT!

          Multi-touch screens have at least two advantages. 1.) They're quiet. And 2.) might get people to invest an extra few minutes in personal hygene. I doubt you're the only one who hates the idea of grease and grime on their screen.

          Heck, it might even generate extra business in the handi-wipes industry.
          Wolfie2K3
        • (Some?) Men seem to prefer touch screens to women

          Actually, I prefer women to touch screens.
          But that's just me.
          Badge3832
          • touch screen vs touch woman

            A "Touch" woman is of course better technology.
            Fred Nurks
    • Not Natural + Greasy Screen

      I fully agree on the fact that a Keyboard not only leave a clear space for viewing all there is to work whit, but also leave the screen out of greasy fingers prints.

      I also agree on the Voice command development to replace the keyboard.
      More intelligent and natural and less toy's Mac mentality, in my opinion.

      I took off Aero function on the Vista PC I use, but couldn't do the same whit the Mac I use for school home work.
      pobstar1@...